Anthony Joshua’s upcoming opponent Kubrat Pulev was hit with accusations of racial insensitivity after saying the Englishman had a “better tan” than him, but says that his comments were taken out of context.
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed Friday that the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight champion will put his belts on the line against Pulev on Saturday, Dec. 12, but the Bulgarian already faces a fight to clear his name after accusations of racism were leveled at him after an off-the-cuff remark during an interview earlier this week
READ MORE: ‘Shameful’: Kubrat Pulev accused of racism after saying heavyweight rival Anthony Joshua’s ‘tan is better than mine’
When asked how he assessed Joshua’s strengths as an opponent, Pulev replied, “His strengths? I’d say he has a very powerful punch, undeniably. What are his other strengths? His tan is better than mine.”
Several fight fans on social media took exception to Pulev’s comment, saying that the color of a fighter’s skin shouldn’t be relevant when talking about his skills in the ring.
However, Pulev has since distanced himself from the controversy and says that he would never speak ill of another person simply because of their racial background.
“I would never, under any circumstances, allow myself to show disrespect to another human being on racial, ethnic or religious grounds,” Pulev said via BoxingScene.com.
“That’s what I’ve been teaching my little nephews all the time. Each of us is born on this earth with equal rights, and skin color is completely irrelevant.
“I can’t believe how my words about Anthony Joshua have been taken out of context,” he continued.
“It never even occurred to me to discredit another sportsman because of the color of his skin! Amongst my friends there are people of different races and ethnicities. They are all great and worthy people, as well as my very good, long-standing friends whom I respect and love.
“It is 2020 and I very much hope that people would stop this small-mindedness and that human beings would evolve intellectually to realize that the truly valuable human qualities in this world are not manifested externally, but through the power of the human spirit and the virtues we carry within ourselves!
On December 12, we end the Year with a BANG!!! Back in the Lions Den @TheO2 for #JoshuaPulev live on @skysportsboxing@dazn_usa 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/2XpRuOmK91
“Therefore, if somebody has been offended by my words, I hope they would try to understand exactly what I meant by them and if they cannot understand me, then accept my sincere apology.
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Joshua on his birthday today and to wish him much happiness and good health – something which is more valuable nowadays than ever before!“
Pulev, 39, has come in for criticism for his actions in the past. In 2019, he had his boxing license suspending by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) after he planted a kiss on the lips of sports reporter Jennifer Ravalo without consent following his win against Bogdan Dinu.
He was also fined $2,500 and was ordered to take sexual harassment awareness classes.